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A Different Way to Heal?
Body on a Bench
Adjusting the Joints
Photo of  Kimberly Mah Getting an Adjustment
  Kimberly Mah visits her chiropractor to combat sinus congestion, minor headaches, and fatigue.

At Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, California, students are taught how to locate and correct "subluxations" - supposed abnormalities of the spine. According to college president Gerard Clum, these "minor misalignments" can "have profound impact…on the health and well being of the patient." Kimberly Mah, a frequent chiropractic patient, tells FRONTIERS that that the regular "adjustments" she receives help her maintain her good health.

Invented by Daniel Palmer in 1895, chiropractic aims to correct blocked nerves - what Palmer claimed were the cause of all disease - by re-aligning the spine. But as former chiropractor John Badanes tells Alan, chiropractic has no basis in anatomy. Conducting a typical examination, Badanes explains how patients and chiropractors alike can misinterpret the popping sound that accompanies spinal adjustments. In fact it's dissolved gas being released in the joint fluid (the same thing that happens when you crack your knuckles) and not a sign that vertebrae are changing position - an anatomical impossibility.

Photo of an "Activator"  
This device, called an "activator," is used by chiropractors as one of many ways to adjust the spine.  

Like Badanes, physician Robert Baratz, executive director of the National Council Against Health Fraud, takes issue with chiropractic. Baratz is concerned about the risk of injury during neck manipulation, which can place severe strain on a vertebral artery, leading to blood clotting and stroke. Although chiropractors maintain this type of injury is very rare, a recent Canadian study estimated that 20 percent of all strokes caused by artery damage could be a result of neck manipulation. That figure translates into more than 1,300 strokes a year in the United States.

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
Keeping Spine in Line

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